Effects of expectations for different reward magnitudes on neuronal activity in primate striatum

J Neurophysiol. 2003 May;89(5):2823-38. doi: 10.1152/jn.01014.2002. Epub 2003 Jan 29.


In behavioral science, it is well known that humans and nonhuman animals are highly sensitive to differences in reward magnitude when choosing an outcome from a set of alternatives. We know that a realm of behavioral reactions is altered when animals begin to expect different levels of reward outcome. Our present aim was to investigate how the expectation for different magnitudes of reward influences behavior-related neurophysiology in the anterior striatum. In a spatial delayed response task, different instruction pictures are presented to the monkey. Each image represents a different magnitude of juice. By reaching to the spatial location where an instruction picture was presented, animals could receive the particular liquid amount designated by the stimulus. Reliable preferences in reward choice trials and differences in anticipatory licks, performance errors, and reaction times indicated that animals differentially expected the various reward amounts predicted by the instruction cues. A total of 374 of 2,000 neurons in the anterior parts of the caudate nucleus, putamen, and ventral striatum showed five forms of task-related activation during the preparation or execution of movement and activations preceding or following the liquid drop delivery. Approximately one-half of these striatal neurons showed differing response levels dependent on the magnitude of liquid to be received. Results of a linear regression analysis showed that reward magnitude and single cell discharge rate were related in a subset of neurons by a monotonic positive or negative relationship. Overall, these data support the idea that the striatum utilizes expectancies that contain precise information concerning the predicted, forthcoming level of reward in directing general behavioral reactions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Databases, Factual
  • Electromyography
  • Electrophysiology
  • Female
  • Macaca fascicularis
  • Male
  • Microelectrodes
  • Neostriatum / cytology
  • Neostriatum / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Regression Analysis
  • Reward*